The recent FORUM article, “In the Future, We Will All Have the Chance to be Leaders,” is interesting because of its focus on a predicted future state. I believe that the future is already here, and organizations should proactively consider the impact of their current beliefs and actions on today’s work environment, as well as the future.
A few years ago, my wife and I traveled to New York City and stayed at one of the many hotels in Manhattan. As we arrived and every day during our stay, we interacted with several members of the staff, but one individual – a member of the bell services staff – stood out.
This gentleman always seemed to anticipate our needs; he made the extra effort at each encounter to ask us if our stay was still wonderful; and he always seemed to know who on the team to go to for answers or to get things done. On our last day in town, I told him he should work for Disney some day. His response:
“I did work for Disney, on the College Program at Walt Disney World. And, I’ll never forget what I learned there.” Paraphrasing: “Two things: Treat everyone as though they are guests and the work is easier and a lot more fun when we all work together.”
He said while he had considered returning to work at Walt Disney World at some point, he is a “life-long New Yorker” and wanted to make his career in the Big Apple.
This young man is already a leader.
Unfortunately, too many organizations believe that “leadership” is a noun based on someone’s title. But, Disney has long held a different belief that leadership is a verb based on someone’s actions. So, by that definition, everyone is a leader. There are actually very few leaders who sit at the very top of an organization, and believing that leadership is only happening at the top of the organization can lead to an organization’s demise. Rather, organizations should realize that leaders permeate the organization.
Building on what my friend in bell services told me, the principles of effective leadership help to unify a culture, and a collaborative culture can solve just about anything. Now, that is an ideal future state.
In our professional development course, Disneys Approach to Leadership Excellence, we teach participants that the role of the leader is to find and develop other leaders – in essence, "to multiply yourself." As a leader, you must intentionally look for people displaying leadership behaviors and create a process for developing your next generation of leaders.
At Disney, we are always on the lookout for leadership talent, and in our leadership training course, participants learn the specific characteristics we look for. Here are just a few of those characteristics:
- Service-Oriented (Internal and External)
Who does this list sound like? (Hint: see my earlier story about the bellman).
In an earlier blog I referred to a checklist for identifying potential leadership talent in your organization. I encourage you to use this checklist, or develop your own, to spot your current and future leaders, and….ask yourself: Who can I begin to develop as a leader today?
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